Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Hammers and Guns: How Fox News Has Poisoned the Mind of the American Public

by Nomad

Reforming gun laws would seem to be a rather straight-forward proposition. People around the world scratch their heads and wonder why a superpower like the US would not be able to work out a solution. They are unaware of the awesome and sinister power of the propaganda machine in the US.

The Mystery 

To rest of the world, right-wing American voters seem frightening but also something of a mystery.
How can such a powerful and modern nation, indeed a superpower which still claims to be a leader of the free world, harbor such an ignorant and so easily manipulated electorate? 
And it's a good question. 

Gun control is a prime example.
When faced with the slaughter of innocent children, why on earth wouldn't there be an overwhelming demand for gun control? Shouldn't the American public be angry enough by now to ensure that laws be reformed? Isn't the problem clear enough? 
If nothing else, isn't it possible simply to clarify the meaning of the constitutional right to bear arms to exclude weapons of war? 

Apparently it is not possible. The recent tears of an American president, moved by the deaths of children to gun violence, were actually mocked. Fox News' host Andrea Tantaros went so far as to suggest checking the president's lectern for raw onion.

Until you have seen first hand the propaganda machine in all of its gleaming smoothness of operation, it's hard to understand how effective it is in defeating reform and discerning the facts from the fictions. 

With the advent of the Supreme Court decision regarding campaign spending, the links between public opinion and party policy have broken down. Now, special interests  and powerful vested interests make the sizable, unrestricted donations and in turn, politicians- especially on the conservative side- simply say whatever they have been instructed to say.
What if it makes no sense? What if it runs counter to all known facts and even common sense?
No problem.

The biased news media- Fox News, for example- will pick up the quotes and repeat them endlessly until viewers think the lies must be true and the truth must be lies. On Fox, it is done more or less in an active way.

On other networks, it can be more passive and more subtle. It might be accomplished by merely failing to follow up, by changing the subject at the key moment, by framing the issue from the start toward a certain direction or perhaps by ignoring any conflicting information. That's just the starting point, though.

Hammer Out a Warning

Take this notable example.
In 2013,  the former president of the National Rifle Association (NRA), David Keene stated as fact that more people are killed with hammers than assault rifles in the US. Do we, he implied, expect the government to step in and ban all hammers? 

When the Keene claim was initially delivered back in 2013, journalist Jordan Fabian writing for Fusion did something that most other media organizations refused to do. He checked for accuracy using independent sources.

Using data compiled by the FBI, Fabian immediately saw problems with the allegation. First there is no special category for "assault weapons" but even then the facts didn't support Keene's statement. (Which also begs the question where Keene got his facts.)
Still, by using the 2012 FBI data Fabian compared firearms in general with blunt objects. And we can understand one thing.
Keene’s claim about hammers... is wrong. And it’s not even close. In 2012, 8,855 people were murdered by firearms, according to the FBI’s numbers. By comparison, 518 people were murdered by blunt objects (defined not just as hammers, but clubs and other similar items too). Even if you just compare blunt objects to long arms, more people were killed with the latter than the former last year.
The vast majority of American murders, the reporter noted, were committed with guns.
Firearms made up nearly 70 percent of all homicides in 2012. More people were murdered with guns last year than by beating, blunt objects, knives, poison, and explosives combined.
With just a bit of thought, (in short supply, apparently), it's easy to see how fallacious the NRA statement actually is. After all, when was the last time you heard of a homicidal maniac walking into a crowded cinema or a play school with a hammer and murdering innocent bystanders? You can't kill 30 people in 15 seconds with a hammer.
How many times have you read how some child found his parent's hammer and accidentally bludgeoned himself to death? If the subject wasn't so tragic, it would be worthy of a laugh. 
But it is tragic, although some people in the NRA might not take it very seriously.

The Magical Transformation

Two, almost three years, have passed since the ex-NRA president made this outrageous and discreditable remark. You would think it might have faded into the fog of other stupid things people have said of their own volition. 
Not quite.

Two days ago, Fox News posted this quote by presidential candidate and former governor of Arkansas, Mike Huckabee on social media platforms. (Now the comparison is between rifles and hammers but it is still not true.)
Huckabee gives us no link or support for the claim because he is well- aware that he doesn't need to. 

The sanctimonious tone has become Huckabee's signature, the trademark of a (probably nice enough) man whose political skills could never match his private ambition.
Or you can blame his advisors. 
In the end, he has become a pompous liar willing to say anything, appeal to all of the worse impulses and still, having sold his soul, he has no chance whatsoever of winning. 
But that's beside the point. 
What's so weird is how this blatant lie has been allowed to become the truth. 

In this Fox News posting, the validity of the remark wasn't even questioned no comment was made as to the accuracy of the Huckabee's statement. 
Naturally, it leaves their audience to assume it must be true. 

They perhaps reason that there must be some truth to Huckabee's remark or a vast media network like Fox wouldn't repeat it without commentary. 
And when/if they might stumble or be shown the facts, their reaction will undoubtedly be one of disbelief, quickly followed by denial. 
Ironically the only conclusion left to them is that media must be lying to them. The liberal media, that is. 

Now multiple this effect by eight years, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and it's clear that the discussion on a range of issues, from abortion to same-sex marriage, from immigration and police brutality, has been poisoned. Thanks to lies echoing for years, bouncing back and forth, a sensible debate based on fact is currently impossible.  

You can understand why Fox News contributor Geraldo Riveria could say with a straight face that American just wasn't ready for a black president. 
His employer, this so-called news organization, has practically guaranteed that Americans would never be ready for progress in any way, shape or form.